Ellie Wood Keith Genealogy

Alexios I Komnenos, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire 1081-1118

Alexios I Komnenos, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire 1081-1118

Male Abt 1057 - 1118  (~ 61 years)

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  • Name Alexios I Komnenos 
    Suffix Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire 1081-1118 
    Born Abt 1048/1057 
    Gender Male 
    History Alexios I Komnenos was born between 1048 and 1057, the second son of Ioannes Komnenos, Patrikios, and Anna Dalassene, and the nephew of Emperor Isaac I Komnenos (emperor from 1057 to 1059). The military, financial and territorial recovery of the Byzantine empire known as the Komnenian restoration began in his reign.

    Alexios\' father declined the throne on the abdication of Isaac, who was accordingly succeeded by four emperors of other families between 1059 and 1081. Under one of these emperors, Romanos IV Diogenes (1067-1071), Alexios served with distinction against the Seljuk Turks. Under Michael VII Doukas Parapinakes (1071-1078) and Nikephoros III Botaneiates (1078-1081) he was also employed, along with his elder brother Isaac, against rebels in Asia Minor, Thrace and in Epirus.

    In 1074 the rebel mercenaries in Asia Minor were successfully subdued and in 1078 Alexios was appointed commander of the field in the West by Nikephoros III. In this capacity Alexios defeated the rebellions of two successive governors of Dyrrhachium, Nikephoros Bryennos (whose son or grandson later married Alexios\' daughter Anna), and Nikephorus Basilakes. Alexios was ordered to march against his brother-in-law Nikephoros Melissenos in Asia Minor, but refused to fight his kinsman. This did not, however, lead to a demotion, as Alexios was needed to counter the expected Norman invasion led by Robert Guiscard near Dyrrhachium.

    While the Byzantine troops were assembling for the expedition, Alexios was approached by the Doukas faction at court, who convinced him to join a conspiracy against Nikephoros III. Alexios was duly proclaimed emperor by his troops and marched on Constantinople. Bribing the western mercenaries guarding the city, the rebels entered Constantinople in triumph on 1 April 1081, meeting little resistance. Nikephoros III was forced to abdicate and retire to a monastery, and Patriarch Kosmas I crowned Alexios emperor on 4 April.

    Alexios\' mother wielded great influence during his reign and he is described by his daughter, the historian Anna Komnene, as running next to the imperial chariot that she drove.

    By that time Alexios may have been the lover of the Empress Maria of Alania, the daughter of King Bagrat IV, who had been successively married to Michael VII Doukas and his successor Nikephoros III Botaneiates, and was renowned for her beauty. It appears that Maria was then living at the palace of Mangana. However, Alexios did not marry the empress. His mother consolidated the Doukas family connection by arranging the emperor\'s marriage to Eirene Doukaina, daughter of Andronikos Doukas and Maria of Bulgaria, and granddaughter of the Caesar Ioannes Doukas, the uncle of Michael VII. As a measure intended to keep the support of the Doukas family, Alexios I restored Constantine Doukas, the young son of Michael VII and Maria of Alania, as co-emperor and a little later betrothed him to his own first-born daughter Anna, who moved into the Mangana Palace. Alexios and Eirene had eight children, of whom at least three would have progeny.

    When Alexios\' first son Johannes II Komnenos was born in 1087, Anna\'s engagement to Constantine was dissolved and she was moved to the main palace with her mother and grandmother. Alexios became estranged from Maria of Alania, who was stripped of her imperial title and retired to a monastery, and Constantine Doukas was deprived of his status as co-emperor, though he remained on good terms with the imperial family. He succumbed to his weak constitution soon afterwards.

    Alexios\' long reign of nearly 37 years was full of struggle. At the very outset he had to meet the formidable attack of the Normans led by Robert Guiscard, duke of Apulia and his eldest son Boemund I, who took Dyrrhachium and Corfu, and laid siege to Larissa in Thessaly. Alexios suffered several defeats before being able to strike back with success. He enhanced this by bribing the German king Heinrich IV to attack the Normans in Italy, which forced them to concentrate on their defences at home in 1083-1084. He also secured the alliance of Henry, count of Monte Sant\'Angelo, who controlled the Peninsula del Gargano and dated his charters by Alexios\' reign. Henry\'s allegiance was to be the last example of Greek political control on peninsular Italy. The Norman danger ended for the time being with Robert Guiscard\'s death in 1085, and the Byzantines recovered most of their losses.

    Alexios next had to deal with disturbances in Thrace, where the heretical sects of the Bogomils and the Paulicians revolted and made common cause with the Pechenegs from beyond the Danube. Paulician soldiers in imperial service likewise deserted during Alexios\' battles with the Normans. As soon as the Norman threat had passed, Alexios set out to punish the rebels and deserters, confiscating their lands. This led to a further revolt near Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and the commander of the field army in the west, Gregory Pakourianos was defeated and killed in the ensuing battle. In 1087 the Pechenegs raided into Thrace; Alexios crossed into Moesia to retaliate but failed to take Dorostolon (Silistra). During his retreat, the emperor was surrounded and worn down by the Pechenegs, who forced him to sign a truce and pay protection money. In 1090 the Pechenegs invaded Thrace again, while the brother-in-law of the Sultan of Rum launched a fleet and attempted to arrange a joint siege of Constantinople with the Pechenegs. Alexios overcame this crisis by entering into an alliance with a horde of 40,000 Cumans, with whose help he crushed the Pechenegs at Levounion in Thrace on 29 April 1091.

    This put an end to the Pecheneg threat, but in 1094 the Cumans began to raid the imperial territories in the Balkans. Led by a pretender claiming to be Constantine Diogenes, a long-dead son of the Emperor Romanos IV, the Cumans crossed the mountains and raided into eastern Thrace until their leader was eliminated at Adrianople. With the Balkans more or less pacified, Alexios could now turn his attention to Asia Minor, which had been almost completely overrun by the Seljuk Turks.

    As early as 1090, Alexios had taken reconciliatory measures towards the papacy, with the intention of seeking western support against the Seljuks. In 1095 his ambassadors appeared before Pope Urban II at the Council of Piacenza. The help which he wanted from the West was simply mercenary forces and not the immense hosts which arrived, to his consternation and embarrassment, after the pope preached the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont later that same year. Not quite ready to resupply this number of people as they traversed his territories, the emperor saw his Balkan possessions subjected to further pillage at the hands of his own allies. Alexios dealt with the first disorganised group of Crusaders, led by the preacher Peter the Hermit, by sending them on to Asia Minor, where they were massacred by the Turks in 1096.

    The second and much more formidable host of Crusaders gradually made its way to Constantinople, led in sections by Godfrey de Bouillon, Boemund I, prince of Tarente, Raimond V, comte de Toulouse, and other important members of the Western nobility. Alexios used the opportunity of meeting the Crusader leaders separately as they arrived and extracting from them oaths of homage and the promise to turn over conquered lands to the Byzantine empire. Transferring each contingent into Asia, Alexios promised to supply them with provisions in return for their oaths of homage. The Crusade was a notable success for Byzantium, as Alexios now recovered for the Byzantine empire a number of important cities and islands. The Crusader siege of Nicaea forced the city to surrender to the emperor in 1097, and the subsequent Crusader victory at Dorylaion allowed the Byzantine forces to recover much of Asia Minor. Here Byzantine rule was re-established in Chios, Rhodes, Smyrna, Ephesus, Philadelphia, and Sardis in 1097-1099.

    This success is ascribed by his daughter Anna to Alexios\' policy and diplomacy, but by the Latin historians of the Crusade to his treachery and falseness. In 1099 a Byzantine fleet of 10 ships was sent to assist the Crusaders. The Crusaders believed their oaths were made invalid when the Byzantine contingent under Tatikios failed to help them during the siege of Antioch; Boemund, who had set himself up as prince of Antioch, briefly went to war with Alexios in the Balkans, but was blockaded by the Byzantine forces and agreed to become Alexios\' vassal by the Treaty of Devol in 1108.

    During the last twenty years of his life Alexios lost much of his popularity. The years were marked by persecution of the followers of the Paulician and Bogomil heresies - one of his last acts was to burn publicly on the stake Basil, a Bogomil leader with whom he had engaged in a theological dispute. In spite of the success of the Crusade, Alexios also had to repel numerous attempts on his territory by the Seljuks between 1110 and 1117.

    Alexios\' last years were also troubled by anxieties over the succession. Although he had crowned his son Johannes II Komnenos co-emperor at the age of five in 1092, Alexios\'s wife Eirene Doukaina wished to alter the succession in favour of her daughter Anna and Anna\'s husband Nikephoros Bryennios. Bryennios had been made kaisar (Caesar) and received the newly-created title of \'Panhypersebastos\' (\'honoured above all\'), and remained loyal to both Alexios and Johannes. Nevertheless, the intrigues of Eirene and Anna disturbed even Alexios\' dying hours. He died on 15 August 1118.

    Alexios I had stabilised the Byzantine empire and overcome a dangerous crisis, inaugurating a century of imperial prosperity and success. He had also profoundly altered the nature of the Byzantine government. By seeking close alliances with powerful noble families, Alexios put an end to the tradition of imperial exclusivity and co-opted most of the nobility into his extended family and, through it, his government. This measure, which was intended to diminish opposition, was paralleled by the introduction of new courtly dignities, like that of \'Panhypersebastos\' given to Nikephoros Bryennios, or that of \'Sebastokrator\' given to the emperor\'s brother Isaac Komnenos. Although this policy met with initial success, it gradually undermined the relative effectiveness of the imperial bureaucracy by placing family connections over merit. Alexios\' policy of integration of the nobility bore the fruit of continuity: every Byzantine emperor who reigned after Alexios I Komnenos was related to him by either descent or marriage.  [1
    Died 15 Aug 1118 
    Person ID I1835  Ellie Wood Keith
    Last Modified 26 Feb 2018 

    Father Ioannes Komnenos Patrikios,   b. Abt 1015,   d. 12 Jul 1067  (Age ~ 52 years) 
    Mother Anna Dalassene, Regent of the Eastern Roman Empire,   b. Abt 1025,   d. Abt 1101  (Age ~ 76 years) 
    Married Abt 1042 
    Family ID F1154  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Eirene Doukaina,   b. Abt 1066,   d. 19 Feb 1123  (Age ~ 57 years) 
    Married Abt 1078 
    +1. Theodora Komnena,   b. 15 Jan 1096, Constantinople Find all individuals with events at this location
    Last Modified 26 Feb 2018 
    Family ID F1147  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
    Alexios I Komnenos, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire 1081-1118
    Alexios I Komnenos, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire 1081-1118

  • Sources 
    1. [S64] Genealogics, Leo Van de Pas, http://www.genealogics.org/getperson.php?personID=I00049915&tree=LEO.